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Thursday, April 22, 2010
The legacy of Zia Ul Haq continues to haunt the minorities in Pakistan as the 18th Amendment failed to do away with the controversial Blasphemy Law.
Representatives of minority communities have expressed concern over the government’s silence towards the repealing of the law.
Patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council, Ramesh Kumar told The News that he had met with top government officials, including Chairman Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms, Senator Raza Rabbani regarding amendments to the blasphemy law but failed to get any response.
“The law has greatly been misused against all the minority communities living in the country. There is a dire need to amend the law. I also made some suggestions regarding the selection procedure of the parliamentarians representing the minorities. However, this request, like its former, was also ignored.” Kumar suggested that parliamentarians should be nominated by public votes and not by party nomination.
Representing the Christian community, the secretary general of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, Michael Javed, said that the government officials had promised on several occasions that amendments would be made but all these ended up in smoke. “It seems that the state has forgotten the outrageous Gojra incident in which seven people were burnt alive and more than 40 houses were torched. Due to the Blasphemy Law, hundreds of innocent people have been killed and several others are languishing in jails on the pretext of false cases.”
Moreover, the government’s decision to allocate four reserved seats in the Senate for the minorities is just a deceptive picture as the ones who would be sitting on the chairs would be representing their respective political parties and not the masses, he added.
A minority rights advocate, Elvis Steven, stated that the sentiment of the community has also been hurt over the exclusion of minorities in the constitutional committee for the 18th Amendment Bill. “Neither any amendment was not made to laws pertaining to minorities nor was any minority leader was taken into consultation for the reforms”.
“The Blasphemy Law has become a dead noose for us,” said Sardar Ramesh, of the Sikh community, a community which has no representation in the government or in the opposition. He said that no follower of any religion could even think of defaming or desecrating another religion and the death sentence punishment for the law should be abolished.
However, the most vulnerable minority community is the Ahmedis who continue to face discrimination and violence in the light of the law.
A report titled ‘State of Human Rights in 2009’ by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan displays a bleak picture of the minorities. Last year, a total of 41 complaints regarding Blasphemy Law were registered by the police, out of which some 37 Ahmedis were booked under the law. Around five Ahmedi citizens were murdered in target killings.
“The law is exploited and our people are the worst sufferers. Everyday we are issued death threats but remain silent for fear of our lives. Until and unless the government repeals the discriminatory law, the minority communities won’t be able to breathe freely,” said an Ahmedi leader.